Category Archives: Talks

Pulp Methodology


I wanted to thank everyone for the great questions in yesterday’s session. And I wanted to follow up on some of the conversation in the Chat string, as well as some of the emails that I’ve received. Initially,  think that I need to clarify my use of the term “distance reading” as different from Moretti’s/the DH sense, in that what I mean is to read a sampling of fiction (whether in a single issue, across a single title, or within a single genre) in order to identify repeated tropes and formulaic patterns so a to identify broad cultural dynamics. Therefore, similar to Moretti, but a non-technological reading practice opposed or defined against the modes of reading established and sanctioned in an English Studies founded upon the reading practices of New Criticism. I think that I can clarify this (and other things) more if I attach part of a talk I gave at a symposium on Pulp Studies at James Madison a few years ago — a part specifically about methodology presented to an audience working specifically with pulp magazines. I will do some editorial intrusions for clarification and to contextualize for a more general audience. I hope this adds to yesterday’s conversation. Avanti… Continue reading


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New York Modernism in the Magazines

I’m looking forward to joining this NEH Institute on Monday. If the blog posts are any indication, you’ve set in motion a richly informed, lively discussion about the City of Print. My partner in print crimes Adam McKible reports that although you are a conscientious bunch, the reading list is big, the days are long, the number of laptops are limited—and, of course, the cultural offerings of New York are limitless.

As a practical solution and to help us get “on the same page” for our seminar on “New York Modernism in the Magazines,” I’m using this blog post to assemble images of some of the texts Adam and I will mention in our opening remarks. Feel free to peruse them ahead of time (if you can find the time). The connections among this disjunctive modernist montage may not be immediately apparent, but we hope to make sense of them on Monday.


Richard Washburn Child, “With a Letter from Trotsky,” The Saturday Evening Post Vol. 191: No. 43 (Apr. 26, 1919): 10 ff.



P.D. Eastman, Go, Dog. Go! (New York: Random House, 1961).


Advertisement, “Another Great Liberator Costume Ball!” The Liberator, Vol. 5: No. 4 (Apr. 1922): 26.



Octavus Roy Cohen, “Without Benefit of Virgie” The Saturday Evening Post Vol. 191: No. 43 (Apr. 26, 1919): 26 ff.



[Poems], The Liberator, Vol. 5: No. 4 (Apr. 1922): 27.



Little Magazines & Modernism: new approaches, ed. by Suzanne W. Churchill and Adam McKible (Ashgate, 2007): 6-7.

little magazines are non-commercial enterprises founded by individuals or small groups intent upon publishing the experimental works or radical opinions of untried, unpopular, or under-represented writers. Defying mainstream tastes and conventions, some little magazines aim to uphold higher artistic and intellectual standards than their commercial counterparts, while others seek to challenge conventional political wisdom and practice. These two approaches, aesthetic experimentation and political radicalism, are not necessarily mutually exclusive, although this was often the case prior to the 1930s. Because of their often unorthodox contents, little magazines appeal to small, sometimes elite (or elitist) readerships willing to exercise their minds to comprehend aesthetic movements such as Futurism, Imagism, and Dada, or to contemplate political movements such as anarchism, socialism, and feminism. Although the term “little” refers to the magazine’s small audience (as compared to mass market audiences), rather than to its size, significance, budget, or lifespan, these journals are characteristically but not exclusively small-budget operations with short runs. Whatever the format, scope, or preferred topics of conversation, little magazines tend to share two features: a vexed relationship to a larger, mainstream public and an equally vexed relationship to money. [emphasis added]

Robert Scholes & Clifford Wulfman, Modernism in the Magazines: an introduction (Yale UP, 2010): 58-59.

Another, more recent attempt to define little magazines was made by Suzanne Churchill and Adam McKible in the introduction to their edited collection, Little Magazines and Modernism: New Approaches. Noting that “little magazines, like modernism itself, are vexingly difficult to define,” they conclude that for their purposes, “aesthetic experimentation and political radicalism” will serve to define the modernist little magazine, noting that such periodicals are usually founded by individuals or small groups and are “non-commercial” in that they are not designed to make a profit (6). This is a noble attempt to solve the problem, but we find it ultimately inadequate. [emphasis added]



Claude McKay, “Garvey as a Negro Moses,” The Liberator, Vol. 5: No. 4 (Apr. 1922): 8-9.



Mike Gold, “Thoughts of a Great Thinker,” The Liberator, Vol. 5: No. 4 (Apr. 1922): 23-25.



Djuna Barnes, “Robin’s House,” The Little Review, Vol. VII: No. 3 (Sep.-Dec. 1920): 31-38.



Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, “Poems,” The Little Review, Vol. VII: No. 3 (Sep.-Dec. 1920): 47-52.



Ben Hecht, “The Bomb Thrower,” The Little Review, Vol. VII: No. 3 (Sep.-Dec. 1920): 18-23.



Mina Loy, “To You,” Others, Vol. 3: No. 1 (July 1916), 27-28.



William Carlos Williams, “Drink,” Others, Vol. 3: No. 1 (July 1916), 30.



Markers of modernism in magazines:
  1. the modern woman
  2. little magazines
  3. New York
  4. New Poetry


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